The yatra to the famed Badrinath and Kedarnath shrines in Garhwal region will resume on Saturday, more than three months after the mid-June flash floods ravaged the hill state of Uttarakhand.
Thousands were killed and displaced while the infrastructure was devastated by the flash floods and landslides.
In Kedarnath valley, hundreds of pilgrims were stranded and killed while structures like hotels and dharamshalas turned to rubble. However, the Badrinath shrine remained intact through the disaster.
Roads to both the shrines were severely damaged at several points. But the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), which looks after the Rishikesh–Badrinath and Rishikesh–Kedarnath highways, has made roads motorable again for light vehicles.
However, most roads in the region are still in bad shape, particularly the road to Kedarnath.
The road beyond Sonprayag town no longer exists. According to officials, pilgrims will have to make the remaining journey on foot,though the administration claims it has made adequate arrangements for pilgrims on the route.
“For the first time, the temple committee will maintain a record of pilgrims, a practice that was not followed earlier,” said Ganesh Godiyal, chairman, Badri-Kedar Temple Committee (BKTC).
The government has allowed a maximum of 200 pilgrims to Kedarnath shrine, with only a 100 at a time, though there is no official number of people seeking to undertake the yatra.
The administration has made it compulsory for pilgrims going to Kedarnath to register themselves at Guptkashi town. They will also have to clear a medical test before proceeding further.
“So far, 65 registrations of pilgrims heading towards Kedarnath have been done,” said Godiyal.
He added that pilgrims from states like Maharastra, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh had been making inquires about the yatra.
Meanwhile, Union minister for water resources Harish Rawat started his yatra to Kedarnath from Gaurikund on Friday along with Congress party workers and locals. Rawat and others will be present for the reopening of the Kedarnath temple portals for the public on Saturday.
On the way, Rawat visited the villages of Agastyamuni, Sauri, Gabni, Chandrapuri, Bhiri, Saemi and Sonprayag town.
He interacted with the residents about the problems they have been facing since the mid-June calamity.
Residents of Saemi village, who are still living in tents and rented houses, complained about the delay in their rehabilitation.
“The connectivity of roads is restored, but a lot is still to be done to make it safe and convenient for the locals and the pilgrims,” Rawat told Hindustan Times.
“The situation is still grim in the area and it will take time before normalcy returns.”
Asked if it was premature to resume the yatra while the roads were not fully repaired, Rawat said resuming the yatra was a “confidence-building exercise” and would boost the morale of the locals.
“The roads are damaged in a few places, but the hills are now safe for the yatra,” he said.
Meanwhile, the weather in Kedar valley is not conducive either. According to the meteorological department, light to moderate rains are expected in the valley.
“We are expecting showers till October 6,” said Anand Sharma, director, meteorological department.